What Are Telomeres?

What Are Telomeres?

Posted on 21. Sep, 2016 by in Articles

By Jolie Root

The aging process is inevitable — but to a great extent, aging well and staying healthy are under our control. Positive lifestyle changes, such as adopting a healthy diet and moderate exercise, affect how we age. These healthy choices impact structures on our genes called telomeres. Biological age can be predicted by the length of our telomeres, according to researchers working in the field of preventive medicine.

Biological Aging

Telomeres are DNA-protein complexes found at the end of chromosomes that control the aging process. They protect the end of the chromosomes from becoming damaged. (Picture the protective caps at the end of shoelaces.) If the telomeres are shortened or damaged, cells age and die quicker, triggering aging and disease. Telomere length indicates immune function as well as the risk of death or disease.

In a study of how lifestyle can influence telomere length, two groups of men diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer either adopted healthy lifestyle changes or served as controls. The healthy lifestyle group consumed a plant-based diet, participated in moderate exercise, employed stress-management techniques such as meditation or yoga, and intentionally sought greater intimacy and social support. After five years, men with healthy lifestyles had increased their telomere length by 10 percent, while the control group saw a shortening of their telomeres by 3 percent.

Diet and Longevity

To influence your telomeres and thus longevity, eat a diet that reduces inflammation and provides healthy, antioxidant-rich foods. Include lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, especially berries, cherries, plums, apples, artichokes, and dark-green and orange foods like yams, pumpkin, kale, collards, spinach, and chard.

Enjoy nuts and seeds as well as omega-3 rich fish such as sardines, salmon, trout, and anchovies. Spice things up with herbs and colorful spices like turmeric, cayenne, ginger, and garlic.

Foods that have been linked to accelerated telomere shortening and more rapid aging include refined sugars, saturated and trans fats, and white bread. Drinking even a single sugar-sweetened soda a day prematurely ages the cells.

EFAs and Exercise

As for supplements, think fish oil. A study of individuals with stable heart disease recently found that those with the lowest omega-3 levels had the most rapid rate of telomere shortening. Those with high levels of omega-3s had the slowest rates of telomere shortening in comparison. Activity influences telomere length. If you are mostly sedentary, reducing the time you spend sitting significantly lengthens telomeres, as does moderate to vigorous activity. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity per day.

Healthy choices affect overall wellness — and even our genes. Take action today to positively influence your telomeres and set the stage for fewer illnesses and a longer life.

About the author:


- who has written 14 articles on Health e Times.

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